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SurveyMonkey Remakes Itself With Data-Driven AI

Why would the company synonymous with modern, simple online surveys want to fundamentally change the way its surveys work and overhaul how its underlying platform functions? Why fix what isn't broken? The answer, according to SurveyMonkey President Tom Hale, is because the data revolution and a tectonic user shift toward mobile have changed the rules of the game.

"When we started tackling online surveys, it was a desktop world," said Hale. "The metaphors of survey taking were paper and a pencil. Today we get three million survey responses a day, and we're seeing 40 percent more users every year taking surveys on mobile. We wanted to reinvent the survey-taking experience, particularly around touch and mobile, tuned to where people are spending their time and where users have high expectations for their experience."

This morning, SurveyMonkey announced a top-to-bottom revamp of its entire platform. The company launched a redesigned user interface (UI) and responsive mobile survey-taking experience, and the new People Powered Data platform underlying its growing line of enterprise survey and analytics products.

SurveyMonkey Auto-Scrolling Mobile UIThe People Powered Data platform incorporates machine learning (ML) algorithms, natural language processing (NLP), real-time analytics, and analysis of SurveyMonkey's historical database of question and answer data into several new business-facing products: SurveyMonkey CX for user experience and conversion analysis, SurveryMonkey Apply for simplified applicant tracking and candidate management, and the upcoming SurveyMonkey Engage tool for human resources (HR) management and employee engagement.

This data also feeds into SurveyMonkey Genius, an AI engine within the core SurveyMonkey experience that gives contextual question-by-question recommendations and engagement metrics for improving survey engagement and conversions. From a data standpoint, SurveyMonkey is essentially turning itself into a business intelligence (BI) tool.

"Companies are awash in data right now," said Hale. "Companies have more data than they've ever had, which makes it harder and harder to extract insights from it. SurveyMonkey has the biggest repository of people powered data—270 people answer a SurveyMonkey question every second—and almost 20 years of expertise in asking questions and building technology to surface those insights, so we feel like this is a natural evolution of the company."

Hale took PCMag inside the new products and redesigned experience to demo what the new SurveyMonkey can do.

SurveyMonkey's Mobile Facelift

SurveyMonkey--Redesigned Mobile Experience

Lauched today, SurveyMonkey's new UI and survey-taking experience focuses on mobile simplicity and intuitive touch and swipe-based design. When filling out a survey on your smartphone, the survey now auto-scrolls and saves responses. You navigate to the previous or next question by simply swiping up or down. Hale said the idea is to keep users focused on one question at a time in order to improve response rates. For the same reason, SurveyMonkey will now gray out a question you've answered on desktop. According to Hale, SurveyMonkey has found in user testing that the redesign provides up to 12 percent higher completion rates and 8 percent faster survey completion time.

SurveyMonkey also launched a new Quiz Pro tool, an automatic quiz taking and scoring experience optimized for mobile. The company is touting Quiz Pro for use in everything from corporate training and compliance to student testing.

SurveyMonkey Slack Integration

Finally, SurveyMonkey has bolstered its integrations with some popular third-party apps and services. The company launched a new integration with Facebook Messenger allowing businesses to poll directly in Messenger and get instant feedback. SurveyMonkey also improved its Slack integration to add a survey to a channel with a simple "/ask" slash command and the responses you want to list. You can share results in a channel and set up notifications for a particular survey. SurveyMonkey also integrates with enterprise platforms including Salesforce and Tableau, among others.

Inside the Enterprise Product Stack

SurveyMonkey's business product portfolio will be made up of four tools: SurveyMonkey Audience, SurveyMonkey CX, SurveyMonkey Apply, and SurveyMonkey Engage (to be released later this year). Hale broke down the use cases and value for each as part of the company's larger strategy of weaving its products and data analysis into everyday business processes.

"We're investing heavily to make sure SurveyMonkey is woven into the entertprise fabric," said Hale. "We're trying to reduce the time from gathering and analyzing data to taking action on it."

SurveyMonkey Audience is essentially a real-time source of targeted survey data. Through a program called SurveyMonkey Contribute, the company recruits and incentivizes millions of daily SurveyMonkey users and website visitors to provide instantaneous responses to company surveys. The program matches businesses with people who are willing to spend a bit of time to help their charities of choice and take surveys. Fifty cents per survey goes to charities of respondents' choice, and businesses get quality data. More importantly for the busineses, SurveyMonkey Audience gives you the ability to target an audience to answer a survey for you.

SurveyMonkey Audience

"Choose your country, region, basic demographics like age and gender, more advanced demographics like race, education, religion, marital status, employment, etc., and businesses can launch a survey to the SurveyMonkey website for select respondents that will start gathering demographics data in real time," explained Hale. "We've had customers start a survey at the beginning of a meeting, and have responses by the end of it. It's a great tool during something like a PR crisis when you want to know what people are really thinking, really fast."

The two new products released today are SurveyMonkeyCX and SurveyMonkey Apply. CX is a tool for companies and teams to manage customer experience feedback and take action on it to improve a user experience. It consists of a suite of surveys to push out to customers at various stages in a product lifecycle, and feeding that data into interactive data visualizations run natural language processing for sentiment analysis on customer responses charted against Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures customer willingness to recommend a product.

SurveyMonkey CX

SurveyMonkey Apply is geared specifically toward candidate-driven surveys. The tool helps businesses or other organizations collect, review, and select candidates for jobs, programs, or academic grants and scholarships. The simplified survey format is designed to help create forms for specific programs faster, and reduce reliance on onboarding.

The final product, coming later this year, is SurveyMonkey Engage. This is a tool for HR departments to do essentially the same thing, but focused on employee feedback. Hale said the goal with Engage will be to help businesses measure employee feedback and satisfaction more regularly, and quickly pinpoint areas for organizational improvement, filtered by demographics data and by specific teams and office locations.

Powered By Data and AI

SurveyMonkey Genius

Hale stressed that all of these tools feed back into the People Powered Data platform. Underneath the core survey platform and all the enterprise products, SurveyMonkey is combining machine learning, NLP, real-time analytics, and SurveyMonkey's historical database of questions and survey benchmarks into what Hale called machine-enhanced research.

"The scale of the data we're collecting, and the categorization and automation engine we have processing it gives us the ability to slice that data in fundamentally different ways," said Hale. "So when we ask if you would recommend a product in a survey, it's on a scale of 1-10. We can then look at the clusters and patterns around that data. The NLP engine can score the responses for sentiment and sort them into categories, which show up in the analytics we give you in CX and Engage.

The most noticeable example of this is with SurveyMonkey Genius. This new AI helper embedded within the survey creation experience parses your question wording and survey structure, and acts as what Hale described as half data scientist/half survey coach to instantly estimate how a survey will perform and give you question-by-question recommendations for how to improve your survey to gather higher quality data.

"We have an order of magnitude more unpaid users than other survey platform. We can take all the surveys in the world and sort them by completion rates, then categorize them by common characteristics and encode those in a rules-based engine that says 'if this, then that.' Then we expose that in your survey creation experience with Genius," explained Hale.

"We're at the beginning of an AI stride that's going to transform surveys. The People Powered Data platform will look radically different three or four years from now from how it works today, but that's the heart of the idea. We just hired a guy who was Salesforce's first data scientist, and his job will be to find the kind of high-level AI and machine learning capabilities embedded in survey responses. We think we can help organizations extract value from data in a way no one else can."

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For mobile app companies this suggests several interesting questions: Will smart cars, like smartphones before them, be forced to go “exclusive” with a single OS of record (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon/AGL), or will they be able to offer multiple OS/platforms of record based on app maturity or functionality? Or, will automakers simply step in to create their own closed loop operating systems, fragmenting the market completely? Automakers and tech companies clearly recognize the importance of “connected mobility.” Complicating the picture even further is the potential significance of an OS’s ability to support multiple Digital Assistants of Record (independent of the OS), as we see with Google Assistant now working on iOS. Obviously, voice NLP/U will be even more critical for smart car applications as compared to smart speakers and phones. Even in those established arenas the battle for OS dominance is only just beginning. Opening a new front in driverless vehicles could have a fascinating impact. Either way, the implications for mobile app companies are significant. Looking at the driverless landscape today there are several indications as to which direction the OSes in AVs will ultimately go. For example, after some initial inroads developing their own fleet of autonomous vehicles, Google has now focused almost all its efforts on autonomous driving software while striking numerous partnership deals with traditional automakers. Some automakers, however, are moving forward developing their own OSes. Volkswagen, for instance, announced that vw.OS will be introduced in VW brand electric cars from 2020 onward, with an eye toward autonomous driving functions. (VW also plans to launch a fleet of autonomous cars in 2019 to rival Uber.) Tesla, a leader in AV, is building its own unified hardware-software stack. Companies like Udacity, however, are building an “open-source” self-driving car tech. 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